Monday, March 13, 2017

How Much Freedom Do We Have In Our Gatherings?

Those of us who are in Christ are free from the Law. Romans 8:1-2 tells us, "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death." What a wonderful truth this is!

Our salvation is not contingent upon our following of the Old Testament Law. Our salvation is contingent upon the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross and His resultant resurrection. Additionally, as we live today we are not expected to live according to the O.T. Law. Rather, God has laid out His expectations for us in the New Testament (with some input from the Old).

This brings up an interesting question: How much freedom do we have in our church gatherings?

Since Christ has set us free from the Law, can we do whatever we want when we get together? Or, are we allowed to do whatever we think is right as long as we don't specifically violate commands of scripture? Or, should we try to emulate every aspect of church meetings that we see in the New Testament?

I believe the best answer to the above question is that as we come together as the Bride of Christ we should be following principles set forth in the New Testament. While we may have some freedom in the details, we must follow the principles that God has made clear and unavoidable for us. Those principles include, but are not limited to, the following (in no particular order):

Jesus Christ is the unquestioned Head.
Gatherings are to be Holy Spirit led and directed.
Everything that occurs is to be for mutual edification.
Meetings are to essentially be family get-togethers.
The body eats together (the Lord's Supper).
Group participation is the norm.
Each person uses his or her spiritual gifts to benefit the body.
Children are present and active.
Meetings are simple, preferably in homes.
Gatherings are a time to carry out the one-anothers.
Leadership = service.
Elders come from within the body.
Meetings are free-flowing and generally unplanned (unceremonial).
Reading of scripture takes place.
Giving is to meet needs.
Decision making comes through consensus.

The above are principles were approved of by the writers of the New Testament. The Bible testifies about itself that all scripture in inspired by God (II Timothy 3:16, "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.") Therefore, we can and should trust that God approves of these principles and expects us to gather according to them.

So, how much freedom do we have when we gather? We have as much as we need as long as we first focus on meeting by God's principles.


Gunnar said...

I agree with everything that you wrote in your list describing how a church should operate. However, I think that only the first three listed, and “everyone using their gifts”, and the “reading the scriptures” are clearly mandated by Scripture. I think that the other items are necessary if you want to run after all that the Lord has for us through the church. But I hesitate to say that these items are all clearly set forth as requirements in the Scriptures. For example, I think that spiritual gifts --- tongues, prophecy, healing, etc, are clearly for today and this is clearly set out in Scripture. But, I know godly men who love God and love his Word who disagree with me --- and my position is something that I think is clear in the Scriptures. The items that you have listed, in my opinion, are conclusions that you can reach from careful study of the Scriptures. But, I think it would be difficult to show that they are so clear that no one can reasonably disagree with you. If godly men can disagree about something as clear as the fact that tongues and prophecy are for today, and if godly men can disagree about predestination/free will, I think it will be hard to make a clear-cut argument that the items you have listed are all clearly set out as requirements in Scripture. Anyway, I would love to see you do a series explaining why these are essential and required. I would appreciate the chance to hear what you have to say.

Eric said...


It is sometimes difficult to know where best practices end and disobedience begins. I don't claim to have it all figured out. However, I'd rather be as close as possible to what we are given in scripture than stray from it. Frankly, I do not know why anyone would want to.

Kevin said...

Eric, you wrote:

"Meetings are free-flowing and generally unplanned (unceremonial)."

I absolutely would love meetings that go that way, yet I'm sympathetic to those who find edification in ceremony. I'd hate for those brothers and sisters to miss out on a better way because of personality differences.

What do you think? Is there room for ceremony within a participatory meeting?


Eric said...


That's a good question. We certainly do not see planned ceremonies as part of the life of the church in the New Testament. As for those who like ceremony, I'd be interested to ask them why.

I see no reason to have routine, regular ceremonies. They tend to stunt the life and vitality of the body. However, if a church family wanted to have an occasional ceremony it probably wouldn't hurt anything. I just don't see the benefit.

Gunnar said...


What do you mean by “ceremony”? Do you mean things like saying the Lord’s prayer and the Apostles Creed and doing responsive readings of scripture?


Kevin said...

Gunnar, Sorry for the delay in responding to you. I think it's as simple as repeated practices every week/meeting, such as Communion.

Eric, I think you make a good point: Why do some like ceremony? Is it because they think this makes them more acceptable to God? Are they finding comfort in ritual rather than relationship with God? Or are they truly worshiping according to the grace given to them?

Gunnar said...

Thanks for getting back to me. I think you could make a good argument from the Bible that you should have communion every week. I, personally, don’t think that you need to have it every week, but it is a natural outflow of why we gather --- to join in communion with each other and our God as we seek his face. I have known people who thought it was too rigid or legalistic to sing and pray and read and study the Bible each week when we get together. I guess I would say that if a person is doing it just because they think they should, it is pointless. But if it is helping them worship the King, and is within what Scripture allows, then it has a purpose.